While it is around 6 months old now, and still in beta, there has been a lot of noise about Social Networking Startup Ello. And rightly so. A decade or more deep into this social connection thing people are starting to realise, that corporations like Facebook and Twitter, are well, just corporations. They just have incredibly compelling and usable products, from which they’re motivated to deliver what all public corporations aim to do - increase shareholder wealth. Nothing new there. And while some of the founders may have had, and possibly even still have rather altruistic visions…
A more open and connected world
Change the world 140 characters at a time
… once any company becomes public, its DNA changes somewhat, it mutates and we end up with what we’ve always had. Profit centricity. This isn’t necessarily bad, profits are good, and only companies with great (or addictive) products ever turn one. It’s more about understanding things for what they actually are, or in this case, have become.
Ello, on the other hand believes there is a better way. And I agree. You can read their manifesto here. In short they promise never to sell ‘you’. What they don’t mention is that they’ve already accepted venture capital funding as part of their growth plan. Call me a cynic, but in general people who provide funds usually want some kind of monetary return at a later date.
If any social network wants to arrive and actually be, what Ello is positioning itself as, then it can never be a for profit corporation. It also probably should never be controlled by a limited number of people, or even an organisation. It needs instead to be a gift to humanity, a bit like the World Wide Web. It needs to be open source, and uncontrolled. A bit like a language really. One thing is for sure, it can never be about a financial return on investment.
The promise of online advertising was the ability to find an audience based on interests more that just demographic profile. An audience based on interests. This advertisement below appeared in my twitter stream which not only gave me a little chuckle, but reminded me that the web is full of false positives.
As a reminder a false positive is a a test result which wrongly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present. No I am not a One Direction fan. I have never mentioned them in a tweet. But I do very often tweet about music and music videos and use such hashtags. Clearly I’ve been incorrectly identified in one of the parameters for the advertising as being a potential teenie bopper.
It reminds us to think through what the web tells as and to use our own internal analytics to tester, our brain, to see if what it is telling us is valid.
A key word is used in social media might actually mean the person doesn’t like it and the keywords were among other derogatory sentiments. The number of followers and readers we have in a social forum doesn’t necessarily mean we have that many followers of readers. It just means people clicked a button once upon a time. I have over 5000 twitter followers, but I’m certain only a small percentage of that ever see my tweets. My weekly twitter report tells me this as do the number of clicks the links I post in my tweets get (which I track). Not to mention that anyones tweets can now be muted with no one knowing.
Numbers do not necessarily equal caring. It’s also true that media organisations through the ages have used these grey areas to create massive profitability. And even though the technology is getting better at giving us a more accurate measure, there is a still a long way to go. It’s worth remembering that the actions and interactions are what matters, not the numbers.
I’ve had a few discussions with friends lately about their social feeds. A few of them have mentioned that they don’t even read their twitter feed. That they don’t read other peoples blog posts, or tweets and they only pay attention to the attention their own content is getting. The views, the shares, the open rates, the followers, that’s what they care about. And I understand why they might do this. It’s only natural to see if we are having an impact. It’s natural to focus on the work we are delivering to the market, even if this work is content creation and curation. We’ve all heard the argument that much of the content is created by the motivated few. But in a world where content is being replaced by digital conversations I wonder if everybody is so busy talking that no one is actually listening.
What if we all did that? What if every one of us was so introspective that the only work that mattered was our own work?
If everyone is posting and creating and not reading where does that leaves us?
It leaves us in a place where the internet becomes a noisy auditorium of nothingness. There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as often as we speak. If attention is the asset in the modern economy we need to ask ourselves the question of how much we are giving others. Are we being generous enough with our own attention for others content? Are we respecting the gift of knowledge dissemination provided by others? I feel like this is becoming an important question in these times of data deluge.
It comes down to a simple fact which is as old as human language. If we want to be heard, then we first need pay our respects and listen first. People in our specific communities are making an effort with their thoughts and we should support it. Because the things that don’t get attention and support eventually disappear. Content is no different. We need to look at our physical make up and read 2 for every 1 we create. Answer 2 tweets for every 1 we send. Comment twice for every blog post we create.
This is one of the few times in life where it is better to receive than give.
Blog posts are awesome. When you find an entry that answers just the problem you’ve just been facing in business or life. But every now and again what we actually need is a very short direct answer to a sticky question. Right?
So today I’ll be doing a live Q & A on your questions on twitter with the good people of Business Victoria. The general topic is generating new business. However, feel free to shoot me any Q related to your startup as well.
Tune in and look forward to chatting.
Every time I catch up with my young niece and nephews I ask them about their social media usage. Clearly not a robust analysis, but telling none the less. Given I see them most months it has become like a usage and attitude research program. I’m interested to understand their digital behaviour patterns, and see if they align with what the media is reporting. They are all between the age of 11 and 18 years. The question is simple: What social media are you using these days? No brands or tools are mentioned.
In the past few months Facebook has pretty much fallen off their radar. Not even used to socialise. They all told me Facebook is just good for invites and parties. But they prefer Snapchat and Instagram. In fact, over Christmas all they did all day was ‘snap’ with their friends. Ok, so this is no surprise, but what is interesting is the why. When I asked them why they care less about Facebook now the answers are quite predictable:
- It’s too busy, with too many messages. The page on FB is all messy now.
- It’s not as good on your mobile as ‘Insta’ and ‘Snapchat’ are. They suit it better.
- It’s just my mates, not relatives and parents and all that.
- It’s not cool any more.
There were more responses but you get the picture. Interestingly privacy issues have never been mentioned.
What’s clear again and again with the on-line world, is that it replicates the real world. There is no delineation. It IS the real world. But it seems that every on-line brand and social channel at some point start to forget this. Usually post market success.
I really feel that Facebook cooked their golden goose when they started to manage people’s feed and decide for them what was most relevant. This had a really big effect on brands and organisations who had invested a significant amount in the FB platform, where overnight, their investment in connecting with those who care about their stuff was diluted. Reports say that most people see about 17% of what they actually sign up to see. But I believe it had a bigger and wider effect on individual users. It reduced the need for their members to be careful with who they said ‘yes’ to and what they ‘liked’. All of a sudden they removed the need for their users to be diligent, to manage their digital investment, to ensure their feed is up to date with who they want to hear from. And when there is no consequence, there is no investment. What Facebook tried to do with people’s feeds (keep it relevant and digestible) had the opposite effect in the long run. People lost control, didn’t manage their digital home and it turned Facebook into a crowded shopping mall. People selling stuff, lots of noise, too many options, full of strangers – people you met once at a party…. In any case cool kids don’t hang out in shopping malls, they prefer alley ways, and exclusive clubs.
In my view Facebook has become the White Pages of the web – boring and busy, but most names are there…. with a few unlisted persons. Ironically unlisted for the same privacy concerns people had with phones and addresses being public -
I’m certain it will continue to be used to reach out and find people, but I feel it’s days of deep connection are over. I feel as FB will morph into an older demographic as most cool young brands do when they graduate into serious commercial entities. They always lose their cache.
FB wont disappear any time soon, but the kids on it will (have). Unlike older people using social networks, kids don’t have a commercial imperative to keep them there. They aren’t at a life stage where they are managing a personal brand, or are too scared to exit for industry knowledge reasons. They simply don’t have the exit costs many of us do with social media. I personally find LinkedIn totally annoying, spam filled and interruptive but am yet to turn it off by not wanting to offend people or miss a random opportunity. Though I’m getting closer as each day passes. Twitter has a broadcasting and personal quality to it given it has a one-way follow mechanism, it’s also more flexible and succinct. I truly believe it will be more highly valued company than Facebook in the long run because it more easily feeds into other media, TV, events and has a zytgeist of the times quality due to it’s immediacy.
For me all of this is more proof that power in a digital economy is far more ephemeral than the industrial era. The barriers to entry for new competitors are low, as are the exit costs for users. It’s the mere nature of a democratised economic structure.
While this is good news for all startups, it’s also worth paying close attention to the forums we choose to build our brands in.
I’m totally in love with Modern Seinfeld on Twitter (@seinfeldtoday). Each day I tune into the stream hoping for some more tweets which serve up 140 more characters of Seinfeld goodness. For the uninitiated, Modern Seinfeld is an ‘unofficial’ tweet stream in which each tweet is the synopsis for a fictional modern day Seinfeld episode. It really is the stuff of genius.
But it has another possibly unintended benefit. It’s also a short cut to an understanding of the world we live in. For anyone who has been asleep for the past 15 years, and missed out on the revolution, then all they need to do is tune into this twitter feed. 397 tweet reads later and they’ll be all over digital pop culture. Check out these doozies below as examples:
The other cool thing, is that the real Jerry hasn’t done anything ridiculous like asking them to take it down due to copyright infringement. Which is exactly what we’d expect from many old world media owners.
Industrial and bricks and mortar businesses are overcome by their need to ‘get on line’. Guess what? Digital and startup businesses need to ‘get off line’. It turns out that this revolution is a two way street. The new eco system is wide, and we ignore either side at our peril.
Here’s a fun example of the digital getting physical:
Lately I’ve found myself checking my instagram feed more often than my twitter feed. I didn’t realise it at first. But I noticed it only when a few of my twitter friends commented on my lack of tweeting. Clearly I’m still using both, but increasingly instagram is what I give my small doses of available attention to. I remember the time when this happened to facebook, the time when I slowly started coming back to facebook less often, and starting giving my attention to twitter. And it is happening all over again for me.
It really does feel like there are only a few channels I can invest in at one time. Maybe it is Dunbar’s number is at work again?
If I had to understand why this is happening I’d just put it down to noise. When there are a lot of voices shouting at once, it is very difficult to hear what anyone is saying – the conversation is replaced with a hum of city noise, interspersed with the occasional siren or loud car horn. Instagram feels more intimate at the moment. It feels like twitter did when I first got there. I have so few people in my feed I can see everything. A few crew who have organically organised themselves to share some of their life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and it feels like I have a greater sense of control that my other feeds. Sure, I have to take a photo of all my thoughts – but most thoughts we have can be augmented with a pic quite easily. In addition, this need for a picture reduces the amount of banal posts I see in my feed.
Increasingly I am convinced of one thing – as soon as ‘everyone’ arrives at a party, it’s time to find somewhere more interesting. And what this means for entrepreneurs, is that if your party is cool enough, people will eventually seek you out.
This start up is 84 years in the making….
Ok – So I’ve happened upon this half way through – but it is still worth sharing here. Angelo an Italian immigrant who is 84 is telling his life story just like the title of this post. It’s just another reason our connected world is making stuff, well better.
A couple of the videos they are posting on Youtube are hilarious. Especially the one Angelo and his wife erupt into a classic italian style argument – below.
If you want to follow it – the twitter stream is here: @angeloin140
Like most people I recently joined Google plus. I went in and set up my account. I was reasonably impressed and it looked quite cool. It had a couple of nice ideas, including the circles of friends concept of segmenting conversations. After I set up the account, it has been on my list of things to do. That is, to go into it, have a play around, get used to the system and better understand it.
A few weeks later I still haven’t done it.
The interesting thing is that during this time I have still engaged with the social networks I already use. Including this blog and my twitter account. Turns out I still have time for social networks, just not that one. The only reason I will use Google plus is because I need to know about it, not because I need it. The fact that I need to invest time to ‘learn how to navigate and use it’, is also sub optimal.
If everyone ends up loving Google plus, I’m sure I’ll get on board. But my Google Plus problem is that currently I don’t have a social networking problem.